Wholesalers scorn new coops

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 January, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 January, 1998, 12:00am

New measures to ensure only clean, healthy chickens can be sold at markets could flop because of a row over using costly plastic coops.

Defiant wholesalers have vowed to ignore health advice and continue using old wooden coops for live chickens.

The row erupted yesterday as the Government announced imports of mainland chickens would be resumed two weeks from today from 25 authorised state-run farms in Guangdong, each with a stock of more than 100,000 birds.

The list of approved farms will be expanded once officers and farmers have got used to the new quarantine procedures, mainland officials said.

Shenzhen Animals and Plants Quarantine Bureau deputy director Tan Guoying said that cages and lorries which were used to transport chickens would be required to be washed and sterilised every day.

About 80,000 chickens were imported from Guangdong each day before the ban on Christmas Eve.

A city government spokesman, Li Xiaogan, added that vets would be stationed on the mainland side of the Man Kam To crossing to screen chickens.

The spokesman said all unhealthy birds would be destroyed and the suppliers would have their licences revoked.

The SAR Government wants plastic cages to be used for chickens as they are more easily cleaned but local wholesalers have yet to be convinced.

A representative, Wong Man-lung, who led a group of traders to meet Agriculture and Fisheries Department officials yesterday, said: 'We have been using wooden cages for decades. None of us has got infected.' Senior market management officer Ng Yeung-shing said he was puzzled by the traders' position.

'We are prepared to lend them plastic cages free of charge. But they ignored our proposal and insisted on using their old wooden coops,' he said.

In Beijing, Dr Daniel Lavanchy, the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) mission investigating avian flu in China, said he believed the deadly H5N1 virus might have originated in unhygienic wholesale markets in Hong Kong.

But Dr Lavanchy, speaking at the end of his inspection tour yesterday, urged China to increase the number of samples tested.

He said the WHO would consider offering funding to China to help it step up surveillance and would give training to mainland doctors if necessary.

Meanwhile, the Regional Services Department said yesterday that new ventilators had been installed at markets to ensure a hygienic environment for buyers and hawkers.